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Inhofe’s Stunning Admission To Maddow on Global Warming: ‘I Thought It Must Be True Until I Found Out What It Cost”

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"Inhofe’s Stunning Admission To Maddow on Global Warming: ‘I Thought It Must Be True Until I Found Out What It Cost”"

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Senate’s top denier pushes myth enviros far outspent industry in climate fight

Did you see the big smack down last night between MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)? The dean of disinformation mostly just repeated his well-worn falseshoods about global warming, which Maddow shot down.

But there was one remarkable admission from the former Chair of the Senate Environment Committee:

I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

In short, learning about the (supposed) high cost of the solution is what turned him from a believer in climate science to a denier.

Yes, you always have to take what Inhofe says with a grain of (smelling) salt, but this admission confirms what many of us have been saying for years (see Krauthammer (6/08): “The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science”). As the NY Times explained about a 2008 denial conference, “The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases.” If you can’t abide the cure, you’re much more likely to deny the disease.

The journalist Michael Kinsley famously said, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.”

Watch it (4 minutes in):

[Apologies for that absurd ExxonMobil Keystone tar sands ad.]

It’s long been clear that it’s far more costly not to act (see Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path). And the International Energy Agency explained last year, “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

Ironically, the kind of denial and delay Inhofe is promoting guarantees much bigger and more intrusive government in the coming decades, for two reasons:

  1. We will still have to do all of the same mitigation, but in a much shorter time frame, which means in a manner much less business friendly than if we had passed the climate bill
  2. We will have to do a huge amount of adaptation, whereby government spends tens of billions through FEMA and gets into the business of telling people where they can and can’t live (can’t let people keep rebuilding in the ever-spreading flood plains or the ever-enlarging areas threatened by sea level rise and DustBowlification) and how they can live (sharp water curtailment in the SW DustBowl, for instance)

Tragically, Inhofe’s home state is among those poised to suffer the worst and ultimately depopulate. As we saw in the 1930s Dust Bowl, abandonment is the most common adaptation strategy when faced with prolonged drought -- and the droughts Oklahoma will be seeing in the coming decades will make the Dust Bowl seem wet and cool by comparison (see “Must-read NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path“).

The other memorable part of the exchange occurs about 7 minutes in.  Maddow points out that Inhofe gets a lot of money from fossil fuel companies and the Kochs, so shouldn’t a “reasonable person” think that his “anti-global warming, pro-fossil fuel stance is sort of just what your donors are paying for.”

Inhofe first says “Big Oil” isn’t really that big. Seriously. The “Top Five Oil Companies Made $1 Trillion in Profits from 2001 Through 2011.

Then he starts to ramble about some article that showed environmentalists far outspent industry. He claimed it just appeared in “a very liberal publication” — by which he means the journal Nature (!) one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.

But what he was actually referring to was a 2011 study by Matthew Nisbet of American University (that got covered in Nature at the time). Of course, that study was thoroughly debunked by one of its original reviewers — see Leading expert withdraws name fromClimate Shift report, explains how key conclusion that environmentalists weren’t outspent by opponents of climate bill “is contradicted by Nisbet’s own data.”

Indeed, I showed the reverse was true, with the help of that reviewer — see “Climate Shift data reanalysis makes clear opponents of climate bill far outspent environmentalists.” The data actually suggest opponents of the bill far outspent environmentalists during the climate bill debate of 2009 and 2010:

  • 8-to-1 on lobbying in 2009
  • 4-to 1 (or more) on advertising in 2009
  • 8-to-1 in donations to candidates and Congress members in 2010 cycle
  • 10-to-1 on independent election expenditures in 2010

Maddow of course was stunned by Inhofe’s claims:

So you think that the environmental groups have more money they spend on this issue [climate change] than the entire energy industry?” a skeptical Maddow asked.

“Absolutely,” Inhofe replied confidently. “You get the MoveOn.org, the George Soros, the Michael Moores, all the Hollywood elites and all your good friends out there. Yeah, they sure do.”

“I would put Michael Moore up against Exxon on this any day,” Maddow said laughing.

As Raw Story noted of the exchange:

However, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, environmental groups spent $22.4 million on lobbying efforts in 2009, while the energy industry spent $175 million.

What a surprise that the debunked Nisbet report is now nothing more than a talking point for the top antiscience denier in the country.

The ExxonMobil ad that accompanies the Maddow clip is an ironic coda on this whole discussion. The fossil fuel companies keep spending a staggering amount of money to push their views, whereas enviros have sharply scaled back their relatively modest spending.

UPDATE: I should have pointed out that Maddow pre-debunked Inhofe in an opening segment (click here).

Personally, I’m not certain that giving so much air time to a well-practiced disinformer is a great idea. I suspect Maddow’s underlying goal was to zing him on his ties to Ugandan anti-gay politicians in the second segment. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

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102 Responses to Inhofe’s Stunning Admission To Maddow on Global Warming: ‘I Thought It Must Be True Until I Found Out What It Cost”

  1. Anderlan says:

    Why did Rachel let him drone on with his total BS? Tiny quotes taken totally out of context, etc. Don’t let a lawyer dominate the airtime!

    • Anderlan says:

      I’m wrapping a metal band around my head to keep it from asploding. Rachel, you’re hurting me by letting him go on with his ridiculous monologue!

      • Mike says:

        Because unlike Faux she shows hospitality to her guests from across the aisle… because they inevitably put themselves in the line of fire with this kind of stupidity (really, when you’re as dumb as Inhofe you can’t hide it, no matter how hard you try).

        Inhofe is essentially George Bush, but much more radically anti-gay and religious. Putting him on the pedestal makes viewers pay closer attention to the substance of people like Santorum (and, inevitably how ludicrous it all is).

        • Paul Magnus says:

          I dont think Inhofe is dumb… maybe blind and pig headed.

          • Michael Heath says:

            You don’t think it’s dumb to be determinedly ignorant on the biggest threat to humanity and other extant life-forms on earth?

          • Paul Magnus says:

            Well, yes, from that perspective. But there are quite a few ‘bright’ persons who fall into your category.

          • NJP1 says:

            Global warming is the least of our worries, the planet will take care of itself despite our antics.
            The real danger lies in denialism, not so much about global warming, but of our overpopulation and increasing scramble for ever-scarcer energy supplies; and no, I don’t mean just gas, but every source of energy, and in particular food. We have used fossil fuel to grow a colossal excess of food (energy) over the last 200 years, that has given us the means to breed prolifically until we now have an extra 6 billion people on the planet who otherwise wouldn’t be here. To stay alive we must all burn fuel, whether that is consuming gasoline or eating bread. Both are energy sources, and burning energy produces heat. Our acquisitive nature forces us to burn more, and faster in order to sustain our delusion of wealth and prosperity. Our expansion is simultaneously overheating our environment and making its destruction a certainty. In simple terms we have burned 150 million years of stored sunshine in 2 centuries, think of it as a brief flash of light in the million years of our existence.
            When its all gone, our population will revert to what it was 500 years ago and the climate will rebalance itself.

          • andreas says:

            The expression is ‘dumb like a fox.’

  2. Anderlan says:

    Environmental NGO revenue (they’re non profits) vs Fossil Fuel Firm revenue? What is that a million to one? What a clown.

    • In my recent book, Cold Cash, Cool Climate, I tallied global fossil fuel revenues in 2010. It was $5 Trillion US, with $4T for oil/gas and $1T for coal. That’s about 10 times more in total than the tobacco industry in 2010.

      • Kim Possible says:

        Well, they thought that gas revenue would keep pouring in at that 2010 rate, but it doesn’t look so likely any more – if you listen to the scientists rather than the energy barons:

        The US Department of Energy took a chunk out of the natural gas industry’s high hopes for the future yesterday by slashing the amount of gas estimated to be held in the Marcellus Shale — a huge swath of shale rock under the east coast of the United States thought by gas mongers to be the holy grail of energy. The Annual Energy Outlook states with a 90% certainty that the amount of gas locked under the east coast is actually 66% less than they previously imagined. They knocked the Marcellus shale estimate from 482 trillion cubic feet in last year’s outlook to 141 trillion cubic feet, and the entire United States reserves didn’t fare much better – they were slashed almost in half from 827 trillion cubic feet in last year’s outlook to 482 trillion this year.”

        Funny how that works. Always in one direction, too. Why is it they never underestimate their profits? (I know. Stop laughing!)

      • John in Canada says:

        I hope that is a typo. There is no way that is the correct revenue for fossil fuels world-wide.

        Wikipedia gives a 2008 consumption figure of 1.42 x 10**18 Watt-hours as world-wide consumption. At 10 cents per kWh, that is about 1.42 x 10**14 or $142 Trillion. I know it’s not all sold as electricity at homeowner rates in Newfoundland, that’s just a sanity check. Your figure is about 3 percent of the worldwide amount.

        • SqueakyRat says:

          John, $142 trillion is about 3 times the size of the gross product of the entire global economy. Something’s gone wrong here.

  3. I watched this on the re-broadcast by MSNBC. I thought Maddow was un-characteristically unprepared, not for the subject but for the Senator’s willingness to dictate the pace and track of the conversation. Generally, she does that.

    The comments regarding Uganda were a good thrust to regain control. We all know that Inhofe is well situated with The Family.

    I was reminded of a comment that Asimov made in a Newsweek column back in the ’80s: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notio­n that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” No politician personifies this more than Oklahoma’s Senior Senator.

    • dglenn says:

      Basically, Inhofe executed a nearly flawless Gish Gallop, and that’s really difficult to counter. I was impressed at just how smoothly he did it (impressed and disgusted). It would’ve been hard for her to control the pacing w/o looking like a bully who doesn’t let anyone disagree with her on her show, thanks to the way he got it going … but if they’d both been guests on a neutral moderator (so that the “I’m cutting you off here to allow for a response before you roll on to the next lie” could come from a referee who was not one of the participants), I think she could’ve taken him apart and fed him his own limbs, rhetorically.

      I’m not really sure what the right defense against the Gish Gallop is from Dr. Maddow’s position. Morally (and tactically) , I’d say rudeness and ruthlessness in response are warranted, but the _strategic_ cost of changing the tone of her show that way might not be worth it. Maybe having another guest to take her position by proxy while she plays referee — not making any arguments, just pointing out when he’s cheating and not letting him get the steamroller going, so the other guest can answer — would have worked, but she’d have had to know in advance that this was the tactic he’d use.

      • John Mason says:

        It was the definition of a Gish-gallop. I doubt if Jeremy Paxman could have stopped him!

        Another neat quote, apart from the classic one about the cost, that I put on my notepad, was Inhofe’s referring to the Journal Nature as being “Liberal”!

    • Lionel A says:

      That cult of ignorance that has developed in the US, and now growing over here, is well described in ‘The Age of American Unreason: Dumbing Down and the Future of Democracy‘ by Susan Jacoby 2008 ISBN: 978-1-905847-66-2

      I spotted my, brand new copy, on a market stall purchased for about £1 UK, remaindered I guess. Excellent read. Especially for somebody who has been involved in the study of Comparative Education along with students from the East and West coasts of the US on exchange. No students from anywhere in the middle, of the US, for reasons not remembered.

    • Vicki says:

      That was my exact impression. I was in shock that she let him talk utter smack the whole interview. While I appreciate her civility with her conservative guests, I think she let this paid industry whore get away with environmental murder. Regardless, she is the smartest and most informed commentator on the airwaves. She should have that idiot David Greggory’s job. He’s such a tool.

  4. Raul M. says:

    does he leave a clue to how he will respond to the now a days rising cost of weather disasters?

  5. Tramey says:

    I agree with Anderlan. Having a near-professional anti-science climate denier is a mistake. I cite scientist-turned-film-maker Randy Olson in this regard. He blogs at his site http://www.thebenshi.com that no one except a climate literate comedian should “debate” a denier since professional deniers are so fluent at lying and obfuscating that there is no way an individual can keep up with debunking or even keeping straight their lies and misrepresentations. Only a comedian can come back with appropriate absurdities. Check out Randy’s commentary on Marc Murano, one of the major climate-denier debaters of our time: http://thebenshi.com/?p=726

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s about time Maddow talked about global warming. With her brains, she could be a big asset here, but almost never brings it up, one reason I stopped watching her. Rachel’s obsessions are gay rights and pro choice, endlessly repeated to an audience that says yeah but is ultimately made uncomfortable.

    She could have skewered Inhofe a lot better had she been interested in and thoroughly prepared about the science and politics of global warming.

    We don’t need a reporter who features something because it’s on the liberal menu. Better to have spokespeople who are driven to educate and act on this critical challenge, even if they are political centrists. And I agree that the second segment is the one that got her blood roiling.

    • wvng says:

      Mike, actually, Rachel’s obsession is politics and policy. She does spend more time than many on gay issues and abortion/contraception, but if you are made uncomfortable by this you should perhaps speak for yourself. She is singularly good at putting the political news into a meaningful and truthful context. I wish she spent more time on climate issues to, but then our politicians largely aren’t and that is her beat. I will be surprised if she does not followup on the Inhofe interview in some considerable detail, and that will put the subject on her boards.

      • Mike Roddy says:

        wvng,

        Women and men who have been through abortions were quite saddened by them. Yes, women should have that right, and they pretty much still do, but a lot of us just don’t want to keep getting reminded of such a painful and emotionally complicated experience.

        We believe in gay and gender rights, too, but that battle has been pretty much won as well.

        Global warming is a great topic for Maddow’s talents. I hope she digs in, and sticks to it.

        • dglenn says:

          “We believe in gay and gender rights, too, but that battle has been pretty much won as well.”

          No, we’re winning, but a long way from having won. In how many states can someone still be fired for being transgender? You may have gotten tired of hearing about it, but don’t mistake your fatigue for the issue being over — those of us still directly affected by these issues cannot afford to say, “Oh, we’re tired of talking about this so let’s just declare it good-enough and stop fighting”.

          Also, re: Dr. Maddow’s knowledge of climate change: the Gish Gallop (the technique Inhofe used) is designed to make your opponent’s mastery of the subject irrelevant because you throw out so many bogons so quickly — things that take ten seconds to say but two minutes to explain why they’re wrong — that there simply isn’t time to counter them all.

    • If you watched the actual broadcast, you saw an entire segment prior to the interview laying out why “climategate” was complete BS.

    • Raul M. says:

      New York has rising sea issues and subway flooding issues. Even if they don’t know how to deal with such the rising seas and flooding would still be.that’s the current events unless it’s just standing water.

  7. Dano says:

    Right. This has been abundantly clear for a few years now. They don’t like th’ gummint telling them to change their ways (i.e. their self-identity) because their self-identity is flawed.

    That’s all this is: a rejection of the negation of their self-identities.

    Best,

    D

  8. M Tucker says:

    All of Inhofe’s “evidence” that climate change is a hoax, or related to something other than anthropogenic GHG, is nothing more than a collection of long debunked claptrap but he sticks to it. He smiles and says, “Global warming is absolutely a hoax,” or “environmental groups outspend oil and coal and all the conservative foundations combined,” as if it is true. He refuses to acknowledge any fact that contradicts those assumptions. He is a powerful Senator. Does anyone seriously think any kind of climate bill could ever get through the Senate with him around? Does anyone seriously think that such a bill could ever make it out of committee or ever come up for a vote before the entire Senate? If Senate Democrats would seriously support such a bill it would lead to lively media discussions. It would clearly demonstrate the Republican Party’s wholehearted, unequivocal, and unrestrained support for the fossil fuel industry, and it would show the Republican Party to be vehemently anti-science and clearly highlight their absolute condemnation prior to examination of any evidence to the contrary. But no matter how popular with the American people such a climate bill might be a single Senator can put an end to it.

    • wvng says:

      “If Senate Democrats would seriously support such a bill it would lead to lively media discussions. It would clearly demonstrate the Republican Party’s wholehearted, unequivocal, and unrestrained support for the fossil fuel industry,” Therein lies the problem, because a significant number of Democrats are too. In fact, just about every Dem from an “energy state” falls into that category. Which was why the proposed nearly passed energy legislation had so many buy offs for them. There is no universe where opposition to effective legislation will not be truthfully bipartisan.

  9. denim says:

    If Oklahoma turns into a dry dust bowl, the land will be useful as solar panel farms. And, as you may have noticed, there is a lot of cool shade behind the solar panels on solar “farms.” Maybe grow some grass and run a goat farm in the midst of it. Evolution by natural selection has a way…

  10. Dick Smith says:

    You finally captured my reaction in your last paragraph–on both climate and Uganda. She did not do as well as I hoped for. I was disappointed.

    • Rob Honeycutt says:

      I don’t think Maddow or her team are very well versed in climate change issues. But that may be starting to change (I hope).

      Very cool that she used SkepticalScience as one of her sources!!

  11. I have posted a response to Inhofe’s statements at the Climate Shift Project web site. He appears to confuse total revenue and spending by Green Groups and conservative groups with lobbying totals by allied corporations.

    http://climateshiftproject.org/2012/03/16/response-to-james-inhofe-on-climate-shift-report-spending-analysis/

    Readers can also find a full response to Joe Romm’s statements about the report also at the Climate Shift Project web site. As I discuss in the report and in reply to Romm, the data available for lobbying does not allow the type of aggregate 8-1 comparison that Romm claims.

    http://climateshiftproject.org/2011/04/22/response-to-joe-romms-statements-on-spending/

  12. malexy says:

    Actually, Inhofoe has made this same or similar admission multiple times previously (potential cost = reason for change in his “belief”). So not news, but a confirmation of his thinking.

  13. DRT says:

    At what point do or did Inhofe’s statements, actions, books… make him guilty of fraud?

    According to wikipedia:
    In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent.

    • Raul M. says:

      A Senators oath of office may contain affirmations of having the interests of the public in high regard.
      If the harbor floods regularly it may be considered fraud for a gov. Official to relate that as a hoax.
      Simeraly heat waves and firestorms are different than a Hollywood depiction, as the people involved may well not have any of the safeguards that actors of a movie have.

  14. Tom King says:

    I couldn’t listen to more than about 30 seconds of this debate. Lies will always overpower reasoned thought in short term interactions and always implode on long term interactions. So its painful to listen to the short term.

    The good news is that there is no need to listen to these sorts of debates. Environmentalists would be better served to focus on the bright future of renewable energies rather than the dismal demise of the fossil fools. Timothy Leary was right after all, we need to drop out (of the mainstream media). Listening to the contrived controversy is doing spiritual and emotional harm. It will only make us negative and the future belongs to the enthused.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      What you are saying sounds good, Tom, but we still have no carbon tax, and very little public awareness of what is really going on with global warming.

      The reason is that the oil and coal companies have intimidated the media and our government. We won’t defeat them unless we put up a fight. Feel good stuff about building better technologies will fail, as long as things like fracked gas produce the cheapest power in the marketplace.

      • Tom King says:

        Good point Mike, but the growth rate of renewable energy is so fast that it might actually outrun the need for a carbon price. Or more conservatively, it might reduce the scale of carbon price required. This would reduce the economic inconvenience.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      What you are saying sounds good, Tom, but we still have no carbon tax, and very little public awareness of what is really going on with global warming. There is plenty of don’t know and don’t care out there, enough to provide cover to the 40+ senators who will filibuster any action.

      The reason is that the oil and coal companies have intimidated the media and our government. We won’t defeat them unless we put up a fight. Feel good stuff about building better technologies will fail, as long as things like fracked gas produce the cheapest power in the marketplace.

  15. TKPGH says:

    I went to Rachel’s site this moring and was confronted with an ad for Exxon, shilling for the pipeline. I was disappointed to say the least. That disappointment extends to Rachel’s manner in handling this guy. She treated the slippery b—–d like a kindly grandfather instead of a threat to national security and a liar. She completely missed the failure of Inhofe’s investigation of Mike Mann and the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study. On another note, Inhofe’s faith-based objections make me proud to be an atheist. He’s a threat to me daughter living a full and happy life.

  16. Jim Pettit says:

    I watched the conversation live, and could only laugh when Inhofe made the revelation about believing in warming before realizing that acknowledging its existence would mean smaller profits for his puppet masters.

    Maddow is a great interviewer, and about as smart as they come when it comes to preparation. But having Inhofe on the show was a big “get” for her, so I think she treaded lightly with him so as to not frighten away other potential conservative visitors. Unfortunately, perhaps too lightly in this case, as Inhofe used the standard “debate” tactic of just spouting tidbit of nonsense after tidbit of nonsense in a stream consistent enough that Maddow could barely rebut.

  17. Rob Honeycutt says:

    I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Inhofe didn’t write his own book. He didn’t know what his book said about Rachel Maddow and blew it off as, “Rachel, it’s a big book. Three hundred and [something] pages.”

    I wonder if he’s read his own book.

  18. wvng says:

    Rachel’s trademark is to offer her guests the space to make their points, and to challenge them on substance. She is as good as anyone on this, but I was right in my concern over how this interview would go. Inhofe is the embodiment of the conservative id. He believes what he believes, and will believe it more if confornted with inconvenient facts. No reasoned debate is actually possible, and there is actually no value in trying – because in the end it is a he said she said thing and no light is shed on the subject being discussed.

    Rachel did a perfectly acceptable job, and the interview was quite civil (other than the Uganda moment), but there is no positive purpose to this. A platform is provided to a man who believes things that are not true, but is an expert at presenting his position in a manner that may convince some that there is a debate here. The only people who are actually qualified to debate this topic are scientists who work in and are actually publishing in the field. And the ratio of their access to the media should be proportional to the level of consensus within the field. Anything other than that simply enables the lies.

    I sent a challenge to Rachel about this interview. “You once said that you intended to privilege correct information over incorrect information, and it is one of the core things I love about what you do. Does an interview like this accomplish that goal?”

    • Tom King says:

      That’s not Rachel’s trademark. That’s a liberal trademark, a trademark of every open minded individual, and the cornerstone of scientific inquiry.

  19. Donald Brown says:

    I am hoping that reporters learn to ask more focused questions about the anti-scientific position of people like Inhofe. Rachel Madow let Senator Imhofe get away with several bogus claims including :(a) this is a disagreement between some scientists and some environmentalists and thereby ignoring the fact that it is mainstream scientific institutions such as the US Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, etc, that the climate denial machine is attacking, (b) calling the most prestigious scientific journals such as Nature liberal, (c) the fact that Imhofe is associated with people who are at the center of vicious, nasty and morally reprehensible cyber-bullying of mainstream scientists and journalists, (d) that the scientists he has called most frequently upon to testify in Senate proceedings have ties directly to right-wing think tanks whose very mission is to prevent government action, (e) the fact that if he is wrong the US is causing great human suffering around the world by delaying action on climate change for thirty-years, (f) that he cannot point to one peer-reviewed journal article in a reputable scientific journal that claims that it has proven that the warming we are seeing is caused by natural forces, (g) the fact that much of the science of climate change has never been in dispute and that the only credible skeptical claim is that there is some yet to be identified negative feedback that will suppress warming, a position that ignores the fact that currently unquantifiable positive feedbacks may accelerate the warming,(h) that there is no peer-reviewed scientific articles that have countered the fingerprint, attribution studies, and the carbon isotope evidence that points to human causation, (i) that this is precisely the kind of problem that we should look to the most prestigious scientific organization such as Academies of Science around the world for guidance, (j) that if he is worried about cost of action, most economists now say the costs of inaction outweigh the costs of action, and some economists predict catastrophic economic losses from inaction (k) the fact that it is some of the poorest people around the world that are most vulnerable to climate change, (l) and finally the claim that the entire concern about climate change is a “hoax” is either a lie or reckless disregard for the truth given that every Academy of Science in the world and most scientific organizations with relevant scientific expertise support the consensus view.

    • wvng says:

      I disagree that she let him get away with much, but the simple fact is that there is no way to actually debate someone who, in response to “97% of relevant scientists say climate change is real” with “no they don’t I got a million calls from scientists who disagree.” I mean, WTH do you say to that? Other than “that’s not true” and then you are in a pissing contest and you get nowhere
      .

      • MarkE says:

        You do what a scientist does: push him for evidence. Ask him who are the scientists who call him and tell him that climate change isn’t real. Push him to provide a list of those alleged scientists who have contacted him. Of course, he’ll hem and haw and say he can’t give their names because they’re afraid of harassment. (Which would be the ultimate irony coming from his side) But reasonable people would see that he’s bluffing if he can’t name anyone.

    • Solar Jim says:

      Thank you for your comment and your work Professor Brown.

      We might also consider that the senator’s projected cost figure of several hundred billion dollars per year has an incorrect sign, i.e. that his projected “cost” could be a return of national profit from investment. The constricted loss would be to the oil/fossil plutocracy and their perceived valuation for precursors to carbonic acid. At present, these damaging extractive cartels are publically and perversely subsidized.

  20. Barak says:

    “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought unless we truly [incomprehensible] find out what it costs. When I first questioned the science . . .”

  21. emma says:

    I noticed the asshats over at WND are saying Rachel got totally smacked down, im not seeing it…they really seem to be wierdly obsessed with her.

  22. Alex says:

    The problem with allowing the Know Nothing Inhofe on is that they get off on a well-rehearsed Gish Gallop romp of misleading lies and stupidities leaving even the most expert at a topic 1) not knowing where to start debunking, and 2) without the time to do the required research to debunk. It’s just simply lie and lie and lie, etc., and not enough time to do the heavy lifting of debunking the nonsense. That why science is peer-reviewed and not decided in rhetorical debates. And it’s why people like Monckton and others of his ilk won’t “debate” online where the scientist can have the time to show where each and every comment is complete nonsense.

  23. John Hollenberg says:

    I thought that Inhofe looked like a rambling idiot who didn’t answer Rachel’s questions. While not very useful, it is hard for me to see this segment doing much damage among the target audience for her show. I suspect most would be able to see through his BS.

    Hopefully she will interview a climate scientist next.

    • dglenn says:

      The reason I described it as a “nearly flawless” Gish Gallop was the venue: while deniers can show the clips and gain somewhat by doing so, the main audience of the show (a) probably caught some of his lies because they already knew what he was talking about, (b) were able to tell there was something fishy about the lies they couldn’t identify cleanly in an instant, and (c) at least some of the audience already knew what a Gish Gallop is and were able to identify the tactic. If the same conversation had happened on Fox … (On the other hand, if it hadn’t been on Dr. Maddow’s own show, she might have felt she had a freer hand to call him out for the tactic, so it wouldn’t have been quite the same conversation. Still Inhofe is disturbingly skilled at the Gish Gallop.)

  24. Cherie Clark says:

    “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” Kurt Vonnegut

  25. Peter says:

    Maddow is still employed by the semi plutocratic media agent of MSNBC-

    and where is Kieth Olbermann these days/ At Al Gore’s network…

    Maddow cannot deliver more then the soft ball quasi liberal questions to a clown like Inhofe- in order to save your precious job.

  26. Ed Casillas says:

    In regards to the bringing up the point on Uganda and gays in this discussion, I took it to mean simply that Rachel was trying to get Inhofe to agree that his book contained a factual error. As with the IPCC IV report, a few errors were identified and used as a wedge to discredit the entire report by some groups and individuals, including Inhofe. By corollary, I interpreted this effort to be a way for others to conclude, using a similar logic train, that if Inhofe’s book has documented factual errors (beyond the already oft discussed errors on the science), then by analogy his book The Greatest Hoax” should be similarly discredited; that’s how I interpreted the implication of this part of the interview.

  27. Robert Nagle says:

    WVNG: The appropriate reply is to change the question to risk analysis and protection. If 97% of experts in a field told you that you have lung cancer, would the proper step be to ignore this analysis and instead listen to your own? Or would it be to initiate risk mitigation steps?

  28. Anne says:

    Joe, I think you’re right when you postulate that Rachel Maddow was most interested in obtaining a mea culpa from Inhofe for his misuse of her name in his book and his alleged role in the “Kill Gays” bills floating around Uganda. She had a bone to pick with him and, in my view, should have done it separately, as her attention, and ours, was distracted from the basic premise of the interview. Frankly, I think Maddow should be taken to task for giving Inhofe much too wide a berth on the climate topic and for making it too much about her being falsely portrayed in the ridiculous Hoax book. Her behavior last night was uncharacteristic of the Rachel I know and love –she was off her game somehow, maybe intoxicated with the fact that she scored a conservative Republican on her show. The thing that bugs me is, I think she was played. That doesn’t happen very often with someone of this caliber and I predict she’ll realize it and have something to say about it tonight. I’ve been a fan for many years and had never felt a shade of criticism for her, until that interview.

    • Kim Possible says:

      Inhofe said during the interview that he had been asked onto her show specifically to talk about what was in his book.

      She didn’t have a bone to pick with him, it was what he was there to discuss, not climate change.

      Rachel is nothing if not a gracious host with integrity. For her to have ignored the subject he was there to discuss would have been ingracious, and more akin to what you would expect from FAUX “News”, not TRM show.

      No matter how much of a lying tool Inhofe is.

  29. Kay Shawn says:

    I squirmed and shouted rebuttals throughout the live interview. Rachel was indeed underprepared even on simpler global warming issues. More important, as it applies to future interviews, she seems not to be able to reconcile her effort to be polite and the GOP-style of shouting, where they never stop, even for a breath. The official rule is admit nothing, repeat your points, never stop talking. Rachel, they really do this.

  30. Donald Brown says:

    The reason why it is important to confront Imhofe is not to win an argument but to educate those who hear from him, and most of the press for that matter, what is so utterly and outrageously wrong with his claims. Most people, in my experience, dont know, for instance, that the US Academy of Sciences has issued four reports in support of the consensus view, that this is not a fight between occasionally hyperbolic environmentalists and right wing scientists but a dispute between the most prestigious scientific organizations such as Academies of Science around the world and the climate denial machine. All and all, I thought Rachel Madow did an OK job but it was also clear she did not have at her instant disposal some of the most compelling arguments about some of Inhofe’s claims. She was very good on a few issues.

  31. eat the rich says:

    Jim,

    This is a hole in the ground 0….

  32. dana1981 says:

    I think Maddow is a great journalist, but I think she let Inhofe jam in too many climate myths without calling him on enough of them (she did get in a few good jabs). She seemed to have a hard time even getting a word in though, and it’s her show!

    Very cool she featured Skeptical Science in the introduction to the interview though. SkS will also be doing a post refuting the various myths repeated by Inhofe during this interview, and we’ll reference this excellent piece by Joe as well.

    I also LOLed when Inhofe called Nature a liberal magazine. Typical conservative mindset – anything that I don’t like (or that’s fact-based) is ‘liberal’.

  33. J says:

    I just watched the interview. I liked the interview, and I liked what she had to say about global warming. Maddow has a way of speaking to her guests that disagree with her in a way that is respectful yet firm and subtle. That’s why she’s able to get even the most conservative guests on her show. I hope that she will continue to have guests on her show that talk about global warming. We need this debate and Maddow has more viewers that any other liberal tv host. I just think she needs a good rebuttal if she happens to have a denier on the show.

    What was so interesting to me about the interview was when Maddow asked Inhofe if he had seen her show that he wrote about in his book that took place Dec. 3, 2009 and Inhofe didn’t know what she was referring to. He said his book was some 300+ pages long and he wasn’t sure what she was talking about. What author doesn’t know what is written in his book? I’m seriously wondering if he actually wrote his book?! Did anyone else notice this? Any interview I’ve ever heard with an author always knows even the most obscure parts of their book front to back. Very curious to me.

  34. What about the part where he claims he was the only member of the Armed Services Committee who knew where Africa was?

  35. kmaver says:

    The interview was like fingernails on a blackboard. He was so full of it, I thought she was just giving him all the rope he needed to hang himself. He sounded so incredibly ridiculous.

  36. billyblog says:

    Hey Joe, Get this over to Maddow. Though knowing her thoroughness she’s probably on the case already and I’ll see it later tonight on TRMS.

    Anyway, when Inhofe started going rat-a-tat-tat through all of the supposedly respectable media sources that had come out and accepted Climategate at East Anglia as being true substantively, the one that leaped out to my ear was The Financial Times.

    [Of course Maddow had no opportunity to respond to this litany on air, though you saw how within minutes of the interview -- well, not really within literal minutes, because the interview had been taped sometime before 9:00p EDST, but still pretty soon after -- Maddow was, in her live segment, showing the results of truth squadding Inhofe on his claim that the largest peacetime tax increase in American history had come under Clinton in 1993: Bzzzt! Wrong! It came under Ronald Reagan in 1982.]

    Yes, FT is respectable, and what they say still commands attention, as is diminishingly the case with the WSJ. So I went hunting for Inhofe’s source.

    Here it is:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b8bfa07e-1692-11e1-be1d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1pJahsglg

    with the headline, as it was accurately quoted by Inhofe last night, reading:

    “Why climategate is catastrophic for science”

    Sounds really damaging for the Climate Change supporters, right?

    And it actually is intended to be that.

    Because, as it turns out, it is an Op-Ed by one Christopher Caldwell. Yes, the same Christopher Caldwell who is a Senior Editor at that renowned peer reviewed scientific journal going under the name, The Weekly Standard.

    Smarmy of Inhofe to not mention this and imply it was the editorial position of the FT, you know, like the NYT publishing an Op-Ed the other day by John Bolton and John Yoo means they endorse the opinions of these two unindicted war criminals.

    But even Caldwell notes:

    “While some of the email scientists were partisan, panels have cleared them of practising corrupt science. All the emails have shown is that scientists are no less prone to vanity, rivalries and corner-cutting than people in other walks of life.”

    Though this acknowledgement comes well “below the fold.”

    And then Caldwell goes all meta to try to discredit the scientifically based Climate Change folks — the vast majority.

    Caldwell attempt this through the time honored trick of the “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” trope. Having set up the premise, he goes on to proclaim the following bit of wisdom as the moral of the story:

    “He [the ordinary layman] must [after Climategate, i.e., something that wasn't even substantively what it appeared to be]listen to scientists with no more deference than he does any other interest group.”

    “No more”? Really?

    This is exactly the same false equivalence nonsense that gets us in a position where O’Hannigraham and Rush are treated as experts on Climatology equal in stature to, say, James Hansen.

    My advice to Caldwell? If he is ever unfortunate enough to have cancer, don’t pay attention to the laetrile boosters, who haven’t caught up with the science yet.

    And Jenny McCarthy’s advice about vaccinating your kids? Nah, be pretty deferential to the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control.

  37. L. Simpson says:

    Senator Imhofe lies with a smug smile as his State suffers from climate warming-induced drought and horrific tornadoes. How is it possible that people in Oklahoma vote for this dangerous charlatan?I can only surmise that these people do not care if their children and grandchildren will suffer through the worst catastrophe humans will ever face.The dangers of climate change, which is ultimately caused by overpopulation, will dwarf any immediate problems we see today since it will almost certainly lead to mass famines caused by the loss of arable land causing world wide migrations on an unprecedented scale,which will in turn lead to wars and probably the use of nuclear weapons, flooding of almost all coastal cities and destruction of infrastructure such as roads, railways and airports,leading to financial collapse of industrialized countries, and eventually almost certainly to the collapse of modern civilization. Neither I nor Imhofe will live to see the worst of this but his 20 grandchildren and their children will. And everyone who survives will be asking “How oh how could they have let this happen?”.

    • Mekhong Kurt says:

      L. Simpson, though I’m not from Oklahoma I spent much of my life, where I was born and raised, until my mid-30′s within about 50 miles of the border with Oklahoma. Over half of that was in a rural area, very similar to much of Oklahoma (and much of Texas). If you didn’t have the Red River and casinos on the Oklahoma side, you well might not even realized you had crossed a state line. (Well, okay, and signs along the road.)

      For a substantial number of people, it comes down to religion. No matter what the truth is, they’ll just accept a negative truth (maybe” and genuinely believe God will sort it out, even if we’re the problem in the first place.

      The threads of anti-intellectualism (and thus, anti-science) is strong, particularly when much of the science comes from “foreigners,” which in this case means even people from, say Minnesota, and anyone from D.C. can forget it — everybody knows they’re all lying commies, except “brave souls” like Inhofe. Combine all that with deep conservatism, and rational conversation stands little chance of surviving.

      There’s a much better analysis of the psychology of deniers at the excellent Watching the Deniers blog in a piece titled “Six Aspects of Denial.” You can read it here — and it’s surprisingly short, especially for doing such an excellent job of explaining in so little space:

      http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/six-aspects-of-denial/

      In some ways I actually pity Inhofe; I wonder what it feels like to know you’ve completely sold your soul, your being, your honor.

      • Mekhong Kurt says:

        P.s., please excuse my silly typos above — that’s what I get for not proofreading before posting!

  38. Paul Magnus says:

    Just imagine if someone were able to convince Inhofe that GW was a real threat. What a trooper he would be.

    I dont think it will be long before even individuals like him will get the connection. Things are rumbling now.

  39. Chris Winter says:

    Inhofe is smooth, I’ll give him that. But almost nothing he says holds up to critical examination.

    An annotated transcript of that show would be very useful.

  40. otter17 says:

    Inhofe quote:
    “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

    Wow. Then again, maybe I’m not too surprised. It is pretty easy to get a denier to essentially admit what their real problem with climate science is if you talk to them for a while.

    • otter17 says:

      Ugghh, and watching the video, this guy is such an arrogant prick. I just don’t like the way he talks down to her while she is trying to talk reasonably.

  41. MorinMoss says:

    Rachel is NOT a liberal; she describes herself as an Eisenhower Republican.
    I think that says a lot about the rightward shift of American politics.

    • I don’t think this is true. She says she is a liberal on her show all the time. I’ve never heard her say anything about being a Republican, Eisenhower or otherwise.

    • cdmsr says:

      Rachel is not an ‘Eisenhower Republican.’

      In February of last year, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and said:

      “Over all of history – I think that politics has moved so far to the right over the decades that if you look at the Republican Party platform from like the ’50s – I am as liberal as they come, but it is to the left of me. The Republican Party platform from the ’50s – I am so liberal I would be an Eisenhower Republican.”

      It was a comparative statement, not a shameful admission.

  42. Colorado Bob says:

    Speaking of bugs

    Global Warming: Pine beetles thriving at higher elevations
    Posted on March 16, 2012 by Bob Berwyn

    CU researchers document accelerated breeding by tree-killing insects.
    http://summitcountyvoice.com/2012/03/16/global-warming-pine-beetles-thriving-at-higher-elevations/

    • Colorado Bob says:

      “We followed them through the summer, and we saw something that had never been seen before,” said CU ecology and evolutionary biology professor Jeff Mitton, describing the study conducted at CU’s Mountain Research Station, about 25 mile west of Boulder. “Adults that were newly laid eggs two months before were going out and attacking trees.”………. The Mountain Research Station site is about 10,000 feet in elevation, 1,000 feet higher than the beetles have historically thrived. In their study, Mitton and Ferrenberg emphasize this anomaly.

  43. When he said that line about being on the other side until he found out how much the solution cost, didn’t that at least call for a follow-up? Something like “Hey, wait a minute, did you just say you changed your mind about the science when you saw the cost of the solution? How does that affect the science?” When he was rattling off all those quotes about how this one and that one thought “climategate” pointed to something that “stinks”, couldn’t we at least follow that up with a question or two about why they thought such a thing? In a TV interview, they go to point B long before they finish point A and to point C long before they finish point B and….. As a means of actually communicating actual information, TV interviews can really stink.

  44. Indy RN says:

    the framing needs correcting from the very beginning of this conversation. Conservatives don’t believe *in* climate science, they just don’t believe ‘the climate science.’ Results and evidence do not require faith. Either you understand it or you ignore it and stick your fingers in your ears. HUGE difference, since ‘believing in’ indicates that there may be some choice you can make that will make it applicable or not, or that not believing it will give you an alternative outcome. That’s the awesome thing about science. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. It’s still true.

  45. CW says:

    I used to believe that the US military invaded Iraq, but then I found out the cost.

    Now, after having extensively consulted everyone who will tell me what I want to hear, I am thoroughly convinced the invasion did not happen and that the liberal Hollywood elites are behind the cruel hoax.

  46. Sou says:

    I’m watching this at the moment – and Inhofe is coming across as someone who knows what he is talking about and Maddow is coming across as a lightweight. Very disappointing.

    I hope she learns from this and does a lot better next time.

    Incidentally I’ve only seen what Inhofe spouts in written words, which seem quite idiotic and illogical. This is the first time I’ve seen him in action on this sort of show. He is a persuasive speaker if you don’t listen to what he is actually saying :(

    Maybe you could offer Rachel Maddow some coaching on the topic, Joe.

  47. Andy Olsen says:

    It’s fine to have the deniers on the air to some extent — if someone calls bullshit as needed. But we need more in addition to that; we need stories and interviews on climate change where the deniers are irrelevant.

  48. Mike says:

    I think this is the Newsweek editorial Inhofe refers to:

    “Hacked e-mails have compromised scientists—but not the science itself.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/12/04/the-truth-about-climategate.html

  49. Chris Lock says:

    I was hungry until I saw the price of food. Now I am not hungry anymore, in fact my hunger is a liberal hoax designed to raise the price of food.

  50. Sceptical Wombat says:

    To be fair Inhofe did not say that he decided that climate change could not be happening because countering it would be too expensive. He did say that when he found out how expensive it would be he decided to look at it more closely and, as a result of that closer look, decided that it was not happening.

    This would all be reasonable if it were not for the fact that the evidence that it is happening and is dangerous is overwhelming and any impartial look at that evidence would come to that conclusion.

  51. Jared says:

    As I was watching, I hoped that Rachel would nail him on the whole “articles in the 1970′s predicting a coming ice age” line of thought.

    Rachel calls it an anecdote that he uses to extrapolate to a broader conculsion. But in reality, it is an example that has much more to teach us about the way anti-science skeptics skew the issue. Those articles in the 1970′s appeared in primarily in popular press, not scientific journals. There was no conclusion based on the peer-reviewed scientific research of the time that the earth was cooling. Such a consensus simply does not exist.

  52. First of all, Inhofe is absolutely correct on the cost. Anyone who believes that getting rid of the carbon component of the economy for relative pennies on the dollar is fooling themselves (or adding wrong).

    It is the unwinding of industrial national socialism, there is no way to unwind without completely destroying it. That means, replacement for today’s nonsense is simple, non-industrial, non-technical tools and processes. It means getting rid of the cars, all of them. That means getting rid of all that goes along with the cars: factories, highways, ‘destinations’ that the highways connect, the FIRE firms, industrial warfare firms, fuel and processing industries, all of it. This is about 80pct. of GDP worldwide.

    There is no other way, getting rid is taking place under everyone’s nose. Peak oil is ‘happening’ like Lady Gaga. Last week Greece was swept into the dumpster with dispatch. Next up is Spain. Germany is on the sled to Hell, so is China, the US and Japan. Do nothing and energy shortages will reduce GDP by 80-90pct. This is called ‘conservation by other means’.

    There are alternatives but peeps are on the wrong train.

    You think I’m wrong? Just sit back and watch. $125 oil … murder, I can here the blood dripping from here.

  53. owlbrudder says:

    To be as consistently wrong as Inhofe was in that interview takes more than bad luck: it takes planning and research. To dismiss him as a fool would be a dangerous mistake. He is clearly intelligent and well-informed on his point of view. It must take his staff some effort to track down so much misinformation, which means his denial of the truth is a deliberate choice.

    If Inhofe uses the New International Version of his bible, he should turn to Hosea 4:6, which says “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge”, or John 8:32 “the truth will set you free”.

    Funny how his own book of guidance talks so much about truth and knowledge, but he deliberately chooses to act in opposition to it, isn’t it? Maybe his real book of guidance is his deposit book.

  54. BBHY says:

    Maddow has been desperate to get Republicans on her show, so I believe that is why she didn’t skewer him like he deserved. She did do a fine introduction segment before he was put on that refuted climategate pretty well.

    I certainly hope this is only the start of Maddow devoting more time on climate change. She could do the movement a world of good.

  55. Mekhong Kurt says:

    Actually, in response to those criticizing Maddow for letting Inhofe on her show in the first place and/or not taking him apart on live TV, let me say this: for a fool to appear in open view and help cement his own reputation as a fool is helpful — and Maddow did that very well.

    Remember when Inhofe built an igloo at his home in Oklahoma to mock those saying AGW is real? That got considerable media coverage (even where I live — Asia). Some of my friends who are pretty strong denialists themselves at the very least hung their heds and muttered “Sheesh. what a complete idiot.” Some even decided to revisit the question for themselves instead of just repeating talking points provided by others — such as Inhofe, though not all of those came around.

    Yet.

  56. ktpinnacle says:

    So, our politicians are bold enough to admit that truth can be bought and sold.

    And they then have the confidence to state that it’s the scientists that are crooked.

  57. Michael says:

    Excellent post. And to the extent that the Telegraph ought to be trusted, here’s what they said about “climategate” yesterday:

    “The temperature series was at the centre of the Climategate scandal in 2009, after hacked emails from the University of East Anglia showed scientist were unwilling to release original data.
    Critics claimed that the whole argument for global warming could not be trusted if the data set was questioned.
    However a series of inquiries found the science was correct, although the University of East Anglia was criticised for failing to share information.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9153473/Met-Office-World-warmed-even-more-in-last-ten-years-than-previously-thought-when-Arctic-data-added.html